Photo © DEFA-Stiftung, Wolfgang Ebert
Roland Gräf was born on October 13, 1934 in Meuselbach. He studied cinematography at the German Film Academy in Potsdam-Babelsberg (now Academy for Film and Television) from 1954 to 1959. He started his career at the DEFA Studio for Documentary Films in 1960, and a year later moved to the DEFA Studio for Feature Films, where he would work as a cinematographer and later as a director.
Gräf first worked as a director of cinematography on over ten films, with directors such as Jürgen Böttcher, Herrmann Zschoche and Iris Gusner. His career was affected by censorship, when two of his feature films were banned. Jahrgang 45 (1965, dir. Jürgen Böttcher), influenced by Italian Neo-Realism and French New Wave, was shelved by officials before its premiere, because of its “realistic presentation of young people,” and not screened until 1990. Iris Gusner’s debut film, Die Taube auf dem Dach (1973), was banned because of the way the working class was portrayed.
Gräf’s films are profound personal psychograms, which represent important contributions to German film history and international auteurist cinema. His director’s debut was a sensitive coming-of-age story entitled Mein lieber Robinson. It was followed by other important films. Bankett für Archilles offers a non-heroic portrait of workers that was unusual for the GDR. Die Flucht—which won the Grand Prix at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 1978 and features Armin Mueller-Stahl in the lead—addresses the taboo topic of agencies that helped people escape from East Germany. Das Haus am Fluß is based on a WWII story by Friedrich Wolf. The biopic about the author Hans Fallada, Fallada–Letztes Kapitel, was nominated for the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival and the Golden Hugo at the Chicago International Film Festival in 1989. And the drama Der Tangospieler won the German Film Award in Silver for Outstanding Feature Film and the Golden Rosa Camuna at the Bergamo Film Meeting in 1991.
After the fall of the Wall in 1989, Gräf was instrumental in restoring and releasing films that had been banned in the GDR. In the process, Gräf himself also chanced upon a neglected print of Gusner’s Die Taube auf dem Dach and saw to its restoration. In 1997, he set up a major in Media Performance at the Academy for Film and Television in Potsdam-Babelsberg, which he headed until 2001. Roland Gräf, who was also a photographer, died in Potsdam on May 11, 2017.
Festivals & Awards:
|2012||Lifetime Achievement Award, DEFA Foundation|
|1991||German Film Award in Silver for Outstanding Feature Film for Der Tangospieler|
|1991||Golden Rosa Camuna at the Bergamo Film Meeting for Der Tangospieler|
|1989||Golden Bear nominee at the Berlin International Film Festival for Fallada–Letztes Kapitel|
|1989||Golden Hugo nominee at the Chicago International Film Festival for Fallada–Letztes Kapitel|
|1986||Best Cinematography and Best Overall Film at the Karl-Marx-Stadt National Feature Film Festival for Das Haus am Fluss|
|1980||Special Jury Prize, Author's Film Festival, Bergamo for P.S.|
|1980||First Place Special Jury Prize for Best Director, Quito Film Festival for P.S.|
|1980||Best Director, GDR National Feature Film Festival, Karl-Marx-Stadt for P.S.|
|1978||Grand Prix at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival for Die Flucht|
(D = Director | C = Director of Cinematography)
|1995||Faust (TV series, D)|
|1991||Die Spur des Bernsteinzimmers (The Mystery of the Amber Room, D)|
|1990||Der Tangospieler (The Tango Player, D)|
|1988||Fallada – letztes Kapitel (Fallada – The Last Chapter, D)|
|1985||Das Haus am Fluss (The House on the River, D)|
|1981||Märkische Forschungen (Exploring the Mark Brandenburg, D)|
|1977||Die Flucht (The Flight, D)|
|1975||Bankett für Achilles (Banquet for Achilles, D)|
|1973/2010||Die Taube auf dem Dach (The Dove on the Roof, C)|
|1972||Sechse kommen durch die Welt (Six Go Around the World, C)|
|1970||Mein lieber Robinson (My Dear Robinson, D, C)|
|1970||Dr. med. Sommer II (Dr. Sommer II, C)|
|1969||Weite Straßen – stille Liebe (Long Roads – Secret Love, C)|
|1968||Das siebente Jahr (The Seventh Year, C)|
|1967||Leben zu zweit (Living Together, C)|
|1965/1990||Jahrgang 45 (Born in ‘45, C)|